The Date: October 12
The Friend: Katie Benway-Yerkes
The Place: The Common Man, Concord, NH
The Drink: Hot apple cider
The Story: I couldn’t remember how or when I originally met Katie so I asked and I’m glad she remembered. It’s kind of a funny story.
In the fall of 2003, I was the Associate Publisher of Business NH Magazine. The woman who owned the magazine was involved with Girls Night Out, a fundraising event for the local YWCA, for which Katie was Chair of the Board of Directors. She was all of 23 and already a rising star. The woman I worked for asked me to join the committee and suggested it would be good visibility for me in the business community and I’d make some good connections, the best of which turned out to be Katie.
Katie remembers vividly, and I was reminded of, the first day I attended a planning committee meeting. I was a few minutes late (of course) and the rest of the women had assembled and begun. Katie remembers that I breezed into the room, swooped into a seat and began to unwind a scarf from around my neck with some amount of flourish. Once I had sufficiently unraveled myself and settled in, she remembers I turned to her and simply said, “hi.”
As she retold the story, she told me how she recalls being completely in awe of me. She said I was so polished and put together and confident and, at the time, she was so young and (according to her) inexperienced and she felt so intimidated by the women assembled in the room, me included.
The funny thing is, I remember being in awe of her that day. Here she is, 23 and already chairing the board of directors for the local chapter of a national organization. I had never even been on a board of directors, forget serve well and long enough get elected chair! She was a fast-rising star and the impressive group of women assembled, including the woman I worked for at the time, were betting on her and betting big.
Katie also remembered another of our early encounters. We had done a photograph of the women on the committee for the event invitation. The event was a beach party and we were supposed to dress accordingly to demonstrate the type of attire we hoped attendees would wear. Most of the women on the committee were older and pretty conservative. I was in my early 30s and, well, me, which meant that I wore a bikini for the shoot.
At some point after the shoot, I went over to Katie’s office to see if she’s got the invitation proof to make sure that my sassiness was not going to embarrass me too much. We sat at her desk; she showed me the invitation and … as she’s retelling the story, I can see the scene and hear my words coming, so I cringe before she even gets to say it.
That day, Katie was wearing black pants and a pair of fantastic green heels but she was wearing black hose with them. As I stood up, I leaned into her and said, “Next time, wear nude hose with those shoes.”
As she retold the story and I cringed, I asked her if I was at least kind when I said it and she told me “you were just dropping a dime,” meaning that I was matter of fact about it – giving her a heads up. Of course, to hear Katie tell it, she says she ate the advice up and wore the shoes with nude hose from then on.
I was reminded of the time that an old friend did that for me, too. In Boston, during college, a million years ago, I had a friend named Louise who I just thought was the absolute coolest person I had ever met. She was from New York; she was sophisticated; she was stylish. She was a very talented photographer and artist. She knew about lots of things that I didn’t, being raised not only in New Hampshire but also very sheltered. And one day, she caught me wearing white nylons with a skirt and said to me “I would be very happy if you never wore white nylons again.” And I nodded at her the way Katie showed me she nodded at me, and I never wore white nylons again.
The first few years of my friendship with Katie centered on our careers and the Manchester Young Professionals Network, which we were co-founders of (with nine of our favorite ambitious overachievers, including my Michael). The organization was a huge success from the start and we spent several years working very hard to build the foundation and the core of the organization, all while working full-time jobs, networking like mad and planning more than a dozen events each year. It was a lot of work but the entire group of us was inspired, motivated and determined.
About five years ago, though, the core of our relationship changed. I remember we both started working with Robin, our chiropractor and one of my personal angels, on nutrition and wellness. We both changed how we ate and started doing things to care for our bodies better. Then Robin introduced us to Bill and our spiritual journeys began.
I have always felt like Katie and I started along our paths to personal growth around the same time. Although those journeys have been very personal to each of us, we’ve shared everything along the way, making them feel – to me at least – complementary? Parallel? Mutual? Shared? Similar?
Similar definitely isn’t the right word, since the journeys have been so different for each of us. For example, Katie learned along her journey that she is a profoundly talented psychic. The night terrors she suffered from her whole life were actually communications from the spiritual realm reaching out to her without her having any idea what it was. No doubt they were scary.
I was one of the first people Katie “came out” to as a psychic and I’ve been by her side and cheering her on as she’s learned about and honed her talents and then began practicing them professionally. It was an uneasy time for her, going from being a rising star in the business community with an unlimited potential to achieve a very traditional form of success, to practicing an art that is by no means mainstream and neither understood or accepted by everyone. Today, though, in true Katie fashion, she’s assembled a life that straddles the two worlds seamlessly and she’s a star in them both.
Katie dropped her own dime on me a few years into our friendship, too. One night we went to dinner at Cotton and she said to me, “you make it very difficult to be your friend.” Ouch.
I’ve always had too-high expectations of the people around me. It’s one of my fatal flaws and something I’ve been working on for years. When people get close to me, I just love them so much that I want more and more and more and more and more and more and more. And when I didn’t get all my mores, I’d be wounded and pout. And, as if that weren’t enough to send someone screaming from my life, I asked too much of people who were close to me.
For a very long time, I didn’t let many people get very close to me so I needed them to be more to me than was fair to ask of any one (or two) people. This meant that people always felt like they were letting me down because they couldn’t possibly meet every one of my too-high expectations. That made them feel bad about themselves, which, in turn, made them feel bad about me. This meant that, for much of my 20s and 30s, the shelf-life of most of my close friendships was somewhere between one and four years. Boyfriends didn’t fare much better. They lasted between two and five.
This is exactly what Katie meant when she said that sentence to me at dinner that night. I am so thankful to her for sticking her neck out and saying something rather than just deciding it was too much work to be my friend.
This has all been part of what I have learned along my personal growth journey. Now I let more people into my life and try to find a natural equilibrium with each of them, rather than forcing them to meet more of my needs than they are interested in or equipped for. I think most of the people in my life now are pretty awesome so a lot of times I still want more and more but, the difference now is, I’m grateful for the relationships I have, rather than being upset at, what turn out to be, the small pieces I don’t have.
The natural equilibrium that I have found with Katie is that we are confidantes and sounding boards for each other. Katie is my oracle. When Katie and I sit down to talk, watch out.
Katie is that friend for me who, when I’m confused about or stuck on something in my life, we lay the puzzle pieces out and consider the picture. Then she takes four of the pieces I’ve assembled, turns them 90 degrees clockwise and puts them in a diagonal line to form a completely new picture and suggests that maybe the answer to my question lays in the new picture, not the one I had originally assembled. Sometimes just a sentence or phrase from her can send me off into whole new avenues of discovery, which has been an amazing part of the growth I have achieved in the past five years. She is a wonderful and true friend and I treasure her more than I have words to express.
The Drink: Katie’s not a big drinker – other than the occasional soy-milk white Russian! – so even if she hadn’t been pregnant with baby Jackson at the time, we probably would have had a carafe of Evening in Missoula tea at Z or something like that. Don’t tell any of her bosses but, when Katie and I have lunch, they are typically epic. Epic, as in, where did three (or more) hours go and epic, as in, what the hell did we eat – at lunch! – that cost that much? Now that she works in Concord, the Common Man is our go-to spot for those lunches.
Katie says that the first time she had the hot apple cider, it was at lunch with me and that it reminds her of me whenever she has it so that’s what we chose for our drink. At our 3-hour, $55 lunch!